I’m a bit of a perfectionist. Not all the time (certainly not when it comes to cleaning my room…), but for the most part I’m very driven to do things to a high standard and I can be incredibly self-critical of myself and my work. This trait can be both a blessing and curse. On the plus side you can take a lot of pride in your work and feel a sense of accomplishment when things turn out just right. On the negative side it can lead to ruminating thoughts on whether or not you did a good enough job. It can also lead to some frustration from colleagues who may not understand your need for that line to be perfectly straight, or that the text in the video they’re editing for you really does need to be moved over a millimetre, or why you get stressed when you can’t perform a task in a very specific manner.
When it comes to photography, all those traits of being a perfectionist come out. I’ll spend way too long on an edit trying to make things flawless. I’ll procrastinate on putting work out into the world or advertising my services because I’m waiting for just the right moment to be ready (which doesn’t exist by the way). Or I'll mull over an edit to make sure that one stray eyebrow hair is removed, or that little stain erased from a shirt. It took many many years for me to just believe enough in myself and officially call myself a “professional” photographer.
Fast forward to the day I photographed one of my oldest childhood friends Kayley and her beautiful family. I don’t get home to Ontario much so when I do, it’s such a treat to spend time with Kayley and get to know her boys. This last trip home I was able to take pictures for her out at my sister’s farm.
Usually when I’m taking photographs, I’m on the lookout for all those little details to get the “perfect” picture. Is there a stray hair on their cheek, gotta wipe that spec of fluff off their jacket, tug down their shirt to remove a wrinkle, move their body over just an inch to get the right background, and well, you get the point. Well when Kayley rolled up the drive and her
squealing, energetic boys jumped out of the van with cookie crumbs on their face, then immediately proceeded to fervently pursue the chickens (while ignoring the adults), all thoughts of getting the “perfect” photoshoot were clearly out the window. And as a result, I actually achieved what ended up being the perfect shoot for both Kayley and myself!
What I love about photographing kids is that what makes them so special, is the silliness they bring, the fixation they get on the most unexpected objects, the ridiculous faces they make, their sometimes absolute refusal to do what the adults are telling them to, and their complete lack of caring about perfection. These actions are how you capture their personalities and moments in time to cherish forever in a photograph (wow that line was cheesy but I’m going with it). For Kayley’s shoot, we never did get those crumbs off the boys’ faces, they wouldn’t let go of their stuffies, and all of us, Kayley, her husband Jim, the boys, me, and my sisters that were wrangling horses and children behind the scenes, had muddy clothes by the end of it!
Early in the shoot I just said to Kayley, don’t stress about directing the boys to do certain things. Let’s just let them run around and I’ll make the most of it. At one point towards the end of the session, I still hadn’t managed to capture a picture with everyone looking at me or without a belly hanging out from trying to squirm out of mom and dad’s arms. On the fly we came up with a silly game where we all flailed around ridiculously then I yelled “FREEZE”. Giggles ensued, I took many snaps in those freeze moments, and in the end I (almost) nailed the shot 🤣.
In the end, letting go of one’s idea of perfection and what the perfect family photo is or should be, opens up the opportunity for more honest and pure images. I think Kayley’s words about the shoot sum this up perfectly:
“Angela had such a beautiful way of capturing the heart and soul of our family through her camera work. She allowed our children to interact naturally together as well as with her, and in the end we saw our children’s raw true personalities in her pictures.”
Every time I do a shoot I grow as a photographer and a person. I’m becoming more forgiving of myself and the expectations that I’ve put on myself to not make mistakes. I think the fact that there are probably even some spelling or grammar errors in this article is proof of that 😉. I’ll leave you with some more photos from this memorable shoot with Kayley!